Things are moving fast at the Arizona Capital regarding the FY21 budget and a recess or sine die for the Legislature.
You may remember that last week the legislature passed a continuation of the Arizona￼ Department of Health Services, and it included $55 million to fight the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Three options are swirling around the capital this week. There is talk about passing a “skinny budget” which would have only a few minor changes from the current fiscal year budget. There are three options: pass a skinny budget, recess for a while, and come back to everything this is on the table; pass the skinny budget and sine die (end the session); or pass the skinny budget with language about how to spend the $55 million in Coronavirus funds and sine die.
The House Democrats brainstormed about ideas and legislation to fight the spread of the Corona virus and to help people and businesses impacted by the shutdown. Our full Coronavirus Crisis Response Plan is below. This plan was crafted into budget amendments by our staff.
We could pass the skinny budget and end the session as early as tomorrow, Wednesday, March 18. Stay tuned. Headed for the capital now. We have some Floor votes this afternoon.￼ [Posted on Facebook on March 17, 2020.]
A week ago, on Monday, March 9, I urged for the state of Arizona to make a serious financial investment in prevention and control of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
On Tuesday, March 10, several House Democrats met to discuss prevention, control, treatment, and economic strategies to combat the Coronavirus in Arizona. Later that day, the House Democratic Leadership met with Governor Doug Ducey’s staff, urged appropriation of significant funds to get ahead of the outbreak, and discussed House Democratic Caucus ideas.
On Wednesday, March 11, Ducey declared a state of emergency in Arizona, hours after health officials announced the ninth case in Arizona and the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. At that point, there were three cases in Maricopa County, five in Pinal and one in Pima.
On Thursday, March 12, our first vote of the day was to suspend the rules and pass SB1051 to continue the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) and appropriate $55 million from the Rainy Day Fund to ADHS to fight COVID-19. Any funds that are unspent at the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2021) will go back to the Public Health Emergency Fund. In addition, KTAR reported that the federal government had promised $12 million for Arizona.
For the third year in a row, Arizona House Democrats forced a debate and a vote on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). On April 16, I made an “emergency motion” to skip over First, Second and Third Readings of HCR2030 and bring the ERA up for an immediate vote. Predictably, the Republicans offered as substitute motion which led to two hours of rousing debate on women’s equality.
The Back Story
Earlier in the session– when the Democrats still believed that at least a few Republicans may have a tiny independent streak– Senator Victoria Steele and I both garnered signatures from a handful of Republicans and all of the Democrats for ratification of the ERA. Steele had the votes to pass it in the Senate, but Judiciary Chair Eddie Farnsworth refused to hear the ERA in committee, and President Karen Fann stopped a real floor vote.
Arizona Senate debated, but since there was no floor vote– only a division call– the Republicans weren’t held accountable for their stance against equal rights for women. None of the Republicans who had signed Steele’s bill stood up for the ERA or spoke in favor of it.
Fast forward to yesterday. The House didn’t hear the ERA on the same day as the Senate because the plan was to propose the ERA in the House on a different day… unannounced. A stealthy surprise for the House Leadership. The Republicans don’t like it when the Dems surprise them with parliamentary procedures and force votes on bills they thought they had killed with parliamentary procedures. Their intransigence is the catalyst for our shenanigans.
Several weeks ago, I met with Speaker Rusty Bowers about the ERA and asked him to assign HCR2030 to a committee that would hear it. Every year, the Democrats and ERA supporters ask for a real committee hearing, a real floor debate in Committee of the Whole, and a Third Read vote on the ERA. Every year, the Republicans use “horse and buggy procedures” to stall any meaningful progress.
At the time of our meeting, the ERA had not even gone through the First Read– the very first step in the legislative process. He told me in no uncertain terms that he had “no intention” of doing anything to move the ERA forward. Initially, he declined to tell me why and said he wanted to “explain his position in a larger forum.” I pushed for a reason, and he talked about his wife and daughter and how it would negatively impact them. He also talked about more lawsuits as a result of passage of the ERA. I told him that the ERA focuses on government-based discrimination. If the ERA is passed and if the state of Arizona has discriminatory laws on the book, then, yes, the state could be sued, but the real issues are equal pay for equal work, equal protection under the Constitution, and structural sexism in our country.
Arizona has a history of electing women to public office. In 1932, Arizona elected Isabella Greenway to the US House of Representatives. In 1972, State Senator Sandra Day O’Connor was the first female president of the Arizona Senate. In 1998, Arizona voters elected five women to run the state government— Jane Hull (Governor), Betsy Bayless (Secretary of State), Janet Napolitano (Attorney General), Carol Springer (Treasurer), and Lisa Graham-Keegan (Superintendent of Public Instruction). To this date, Arizona’s Fab Five remain the most number of women elected to state government at the same time. In 2017, the Arizona Legislature had the highest percentage of women (40 percent) of any state Legislature in the Country.
Most of the woman who won are Democrats but not all. In the Congressional races, US Senate was won by Kyrsten Sinema (D), Ann Kirkpatrick (D) took CD2, and Debby Lesko (R) was re-elected to CD8. On the statewide level, women took: Secretary of State (Katie Hobbs, D), Treasurer (Kimbery Yee, R), Superintendent of Public Instruction (Kathy Hoffman, D) and one of the Arizona Corporation Commission seats (Sandra Kennedy).
Since the 2018 Midterm Election, pundits have been judging the size and very existence of the predicted Blue Wave . To determine if the Blue Wave of newly elected Democrats was a tsunami or a just ripple, the media has focused primarily on Congressional and gubernatorial races–with little or no mention of state legislatures.
With voter turnout at 60%, there is no doubt that a Blue Wave washed over Arizona on Nov. 6, 2018. Democratic women won major victories: US Senate (Kyrsten Sinema), CD2 (Ann Kirkpatrick), Corporation Commission (Sandra Kennedy), Superintendent of Public Instruction (Kathy Hoffman), and Secretary of State (Katie Hobbs). The incumbent Republicans for three of these seats– Corporation Commission (Tom Forese), Superintendent of Public Instruction (Diane Douglas), and Secretary of State (Michelle Reagan)– all lost in the primary. Now, Democrats will hold those seats.
In the Arizona House, the Blue Wave was more of a tsunami. Seven Republican incumbents will not be returning to the Arizona Legislature in January 2019.